Saturday, January 9, 2016

Cozy Olive Chicken


Nothing like a good Shabbat heart-to-heart talk with my mom... Then again, nothing like learning fascinating new facts about my roots when I least expect it. A few weeks ago, during one of those cozy Shabbat one-on-one talks, I found out that each end of Ramadan, my grand-mother prepared trays and trays of delicious Morroccan pasties filled with traditional Chebakia, Ghriba, .. she offered them as presents to her neighbors, as a means to foster respectful relations.

What really surprised me was finding-out about Mohamed, a young fella who lived in my grand-parent's building. Mohamed's mother had passed away, leaving him as an orphan. My grand-mother adopted him, sheltering him for many many years until she moved to Israel in the 70s. I never knew this about her. This compassion exemplifies the power of love, disregarding differences and practices. Lessons we still need to learn in the world we live in today. I wish I can see her and give her a massive bubby or 'mamie' hug.

When I think of Moroccan cuisine, I automatically think of my mom's olive chicken tajine. Growing up as a Sephardi kid in the West Island, I ate a lot of "out-of-the-box" Moroccan dishes, and one of these dishes consisted of olive chicken. There wasn't one holiday my mother didn't cook-up her traditional green olive and chicken dish accentuated with curcuma, diced tomatoes, paprika and lemon juice. On a whim, I decided to cook-up my own take of olive chicken, and being my mother's daughter, I had to twist it differently; so I used black olives instead of green ones, sun-dried tomatoes instead of diced ones, added minced coriander (as she would generally rough-chop them), and had to add some nana (mint). It turned out to be a really flavorful dish inspired by my roots and childhood, my kind of girly TV dinner to savor while watching my favorite The Mindy Project, or Suits Netflix re-runs... and yes accompanied with a nice (very tall) glass of white wine. Enjoy and stay cozy!

INSTRUCTIONS




PREP: 20 mins  | TOTAL TIME: 55 mins | SERVINGS: 4

INGREDIENTS
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh coriander 
  • A handful of mint
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp of chili flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken (3 pounds total)
  • 1 to 2 cups of olives 
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, or oil from your sundried tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 1/2 cup of water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a food processor, puree coriander, mint, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, oil, cumin, chili flakes, and tablespoon water until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. With a paring knife, lift skin off each chicken piece; using your fingers, tightly pack each pocket with mixture. Rub chicken with remaining teaspoon oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Oven bake version: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken in a rimmed baking sheet, toss in olives, 1/2 cup of water and bay leaves. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Roast until chicken is cooked through 35-40 minutes.

  4. Stove-top version: Place chicken in a deep skillet, heat to medium, pour 1/2 cup of water, bay leaves, place chicken pieces beside each and top them with the olives. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Lower heat slightly and allow cooking for 30 minutes. Stir dish throughout the cooking process ensuring the chicken does not stick to the bottom of the skillet. And voila, you have a cozy olive chicken to enjoy during these cold winter days. Enjoy, and keep warm!